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Anti-depressants boost brain cells after injury in early studies
Date:4/18/2011

mice that did not receive the medication.

That change was borne out on behavioral tests as well. The team tested mice by using what scientists call a novel object recognition test. Like human infants, mice tend to spend more time sizing up objects that they haven't encountered before or don't remember encountering than they do objects that they've seen before. This gives scientists a way to measure a mouse's memory.

The team found that mice that had been treated with imipramine had a better memory. They were more likely to remember objects they had seen previously and so spent more time exploring truly novel objects, compared to mice that did not receive the compound.

The benefits did not extend to the motor skills of the mice a finding that parallels what neurosurgeons like Huang have seen in their patients on anti-depressants, who don't show improved mobility after use of the medications.

Scientists aren't sure whether the drug helps spur the creation of more new neurons, or whether it helps newly created neurons survive or both. Some of the team's evidence indicates that the drug helps immature stems evolve into useful cells such as neurons and astrocytes, and to travel to the exact areas of the brain where they're needed.

In addition to sorting out those questions, investigators will try to identify the molecular pathway that prompts the brain to create more neurons in response to anti-depressants. The team suspects that a molecule known as BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor may play a role.

Huang notes that one of his mentors, co-author Douglas H. Smith, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, has found that a brain injury itself also seems to prompt the brain to create more brain cells, perhaps as a way to compensate for injury.

"The brain has an intrinsic mechanism to repair itself to a certain extent," said Huang. "Our goal is to learn more about that mechanism and improve it, to hel
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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